Are You Making This Recycling Mistake?


“I’m not sure if this is recyclable. I’ll just throw it in the recycling bin and they’ll take care of it.” Have you ever thought that? Have you ever hunted for the little recycling symbol on packaging and couldn’t find it, or you did and weren’t sure if that particular number of plastic was recyclable? What about non-plastic items? Is that cardboard milk carton recyclable? If you’ve ever wondered these things, and just thrown an item into the bin hoping it would be recycled – then you’ve wishcycled. Wishcycling is defined as, “the act of tossing something in your recycling bin with the mere hopes that it is recyclable.” But the sad truth is, just because it goes into the bin doesn’t mean it’s going to be recycled. Especially plastics. Plastics can be really tricky. Maybe that is why of all 69.1 million tons of items recycled in the U.S. in 2018, only 4.47% of it was plastic. Why is Wishcycling it bad? -Contamination – When we put items that can’t be recycled by your local company into the bin it can cause items that would have been recycled to be thrown away. This is the most common reason recycled items are rejected. -More difficult for workers – Items that aren’t supposed to be in our recycling bin can cause the processing companies machines to break or slow down. For example, in a lot of places you can’t recycle single-use plastic bags because they are so light that they will move around the sorting machinery and get caught causing all recycling to stop. -Wastes money – When sorting companies’ machines get clogged with nonrecyclable items, it can cost big money when they have to stop processing or if they have to fix the machine. And those costs could be pushed on to you. What do I do? So how do we get out of the habit of thinking, “out of sight, out of mind,” and into thinking, “How can I recycle properly?” -Educate yourself – A simple search online for your local recycling company will provide you with a list of what you can and cannot put in your bin. It will also give you tips on what your specific area requires of you to recycle. For example, items must be cleaned out and dried or certain items need to be separated from others, etc. -If you’re not sure, throw it away – I know, it makes me cringe too. I hate throwing anything away. But if you don’t know if it’s recyclable based on the packaging and you’re local recycling company doesn’t provide the guidance you need, it’s better to throw it away. But it’s also a good idea to reach out to your local company and find out for future reference if that item can be recycled. -Learn the basics – The EPA has a great page to give you the basics of recycling -https://www.epa.gov/recycle/recycling-basics

 

Sources: https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials https://www.colorado.edu/ecenter/2021/04/01/are-you-wishcycler#:~:text=Wishful%20recycling%2C%20or%20Wishcycling%20is,hopes%20that%20it%20is%20recyclable.&text=There%20are%20very%20specific%20%E2%80%9Cdo's,of%20landfills%20and%20re%2Dused. https://ourworldindata.org/faq-on-plastics#can-my-recycling-end-up-in-landfill